For once Pakistan did chase well, despite a rather nightmarish start. And that they made a sizeable target of 278 must give them loads of confidence. They had prevailed, by three wickets and nearly three overs to spare, because of some resolute, methodical batting, which made up for some sloppy bowling and fielding early in the afternoon. This time there was no crumbling under the pressure of runs; this was Pakistan's second highest successful chase and the victory gave them unassailable lead in the three-match series.
Abdul Razzaq made his highest score (86, off 84 deliveries, 10 fours, 1 six), Younis Khan (70, off 92 balls, 7 fours) his third successive score of 50-plus, Shahid Afridi (40, 37 balls, 4 fours, 1 six) combined caution and belligerence. They all made major contributions, and when three wickets fell, quite needlessly more or less in a bunch, nearer the close, Rashid Latif (28, off 25 deliveries) kept his head about him and produced the little cameo to deliver the victory.
Pakistan was off to a really bad start, with Imran Nazir gone first ball, Daryl Tuffey finding him plumb in front. And seven deliveries later Yousuf Youhana, the man who had scored two glorious back to back hundreds which played such a key role in Pakistan's wins. But then two stands of well over 50-plus brought Pakistan right back into the game. And with Razzaq going great guns Pakistan got near the target, and Latif was not going to give it away from this close.
Younis scored his third score of more than 50, and partnered in two big stands, the first of 73 with Afridi and then another one worth 93 with Razzaq. From here on Razzaq took over and led in two partnerships of 46 and 34 with Inzamam-ul-Haq and Wasim Akram.
Afridi played a mature little knock, mixing aggression and sensible defence, but as is his wont, overdid the aggression bit in trying to sweep Scott Styris once too often to get himself leg before.
From then on it was Younis and Razzaq, promoted in the batting order, who held the fort by rotating the strike skillfully and playing attacking strokes in equal measure to stay abreast of the asking rate. The two between them had set the stage for a final assault on the target, when Younis fell. This would have been a real setback had Razzaq not been at his fluent-best. And he staved off any ideas that the Kiwis may have harboured of a comeback. And by the time, Razzaq was dismissed, having clouted Tuffey for a six and a four in the previous over, the victory was pretty much in Pakistan's sights.
Black Caps put up an imposing total:
Earlier, the Black Caps seemed to have learnt a thing or two from their trial at Karachi. Once Fleming won the toss and elected to bat, the accent throughout was on preservation of wickets, on cutting out the element of risk, and on rotation of strike. As a result, they put on 277 for the loss of five wickets. A commendable comeback after the previous defeats in Karachi and Sharjah.
Even without Nathan Astle, out of the series because of a knee injury, the Kiwi openers got off to a decent start, seeing off the spearheads of Pakistan attack, Akram and Younis. Akram though had cause to be aggrieved as he induced an edge from Chris Nevin on a slower delivery only to see the ball fall disappointingly short of 'keeper Rashid Latif.
Akram, having conceded 22 runs in his first spell of four overs, was taken off early and Abdul Razzaq was introduced in his place. Nevin impudently lofted him over extra cover for a four. The very next delivery, Razzaq bowled him neck and crop with a peach of a delivery that cut back to knock off Nevin's (23 runs, 26 balls, 3 fours) off and middle stump.
The fall of Nevin slowed down the scoring, but Black Caps having posted the 50 (off 70 deliveries in 11.4 overs), went about the task of consolidating a good start in the middle overs. They added 78 runs between overs 16 to 30, losing just one more wicket, that of Mathew Horne (62, off 92 balls with the help of 7 fours).
Craig McMillan, the man who started the slide with an injudicious shot against Akhtar at Karachi, rose to the occasion, with an outstanding innings. In the process, he posted his second limited-overs hundred, and his career's best, 105 off just 116 deliveries with the help of 8 fours and 1 six, imperiously hooking Shoaib Akhtar over deep square leg fence.
And more importantly, McMillan held the Black Caps innings together, staying in the middle till the very fag end and only being dismissed going after Younis with only four deliveries remaining. And in two major partnerships with Mathew Horne and Andre Adams, worth 96 and 92 runs respectively, he put his team in a strong position.
The Black Caps nemesis, Shoaib Akhtar, not just remained wicketless today but also conceded 51 runs to boot.
After having consolidated the innings in association with Horne in the middle overs, McMillan and Andre Adams, promoted in the batting order by skipper Stephen Fleming, took the fight to Pakistan bowlers in an eye-catching stand for the third wicket. Adams made his intentions clear from the word go, by cutting Afridi to point for four and then driving Akhtar to midwicket for another boundary.
McMillan posted his individual 50 (70 balls, 4 fours) and cut loose immediately, by hooking Akhtar's leg-side bouncer over square leg fence. From the other end, Adams punched Saqlain to the cover boundary and followed it up with a ferocious drive off Akram to long-on fence. Such was the sway McMillan and Adams held that the fourth 50 was raised, to take the Kiwis to 200, off mere 38 balls.
Waqar made some desperate bowling changes, bringing on one wicket-taking bowler after another, but to no avail. He took himself off to bring on Akhtar, and Adams drove him to mid-wicket fence, and McMillan took two fours off Razzaq next over.
Finally, Akram, in his third spell, delivered Adams' wicket. Bowling round the wicket, he got through Adams (45 off 45 balls, 6 fours) defences to rattle his middle and leg stump. But 232 for three, in the 44th over the damage had already been done as with plenty of wickets in hand, the Kiwis seemed well set to a big total.
Waqar got Oram and McMillan in the 48th and 50th overs, but not before McMillan had posted a magnificent hundred. Imposing total indeed, but in the end, the self-belief and the confidence level of the Pakistanis was too high to be overawed by it.
Abdul Razzaq was named the Man of the Match and the teams will be heading to Lahore for the final one-dayer followed by the first Test.